IBS or More? When to See a Specialist About Your Gut Pain

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a group of intestinal symptoms that typically occur together. The symptoms of IBS can vary from person to person, but symptoms must last at least three months for at least three days per month to be considered IBS. Common symptoms of IBS include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating and gas, constipation and diarrhea. Between 3 and 20 percent of the U.S. population experiences symptoms of IBS, and more women than men are affected.

Several other intestinal conditions can share similar symptoms with IBS. Inflammatory bowel disease, (including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis) and even colon cancer can manifest some of the same warning signs, so it is easy to see how bowel conditions are challenging to diagnose. So, when is it time to see a specialist about your symptoms?

You should see a GI specialist if you begin experiencing new bowel symptoms or if your existing symptoms are getting worse. IBS is a common, chronic, functional bowel disorder where the gut is hypersensitive to stimuli and this affects the movement of the intestine. As uncomfortable or inconvenient as it may be, however, IBS is more of a bowel sensitivity issue and will not damage the intestines. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and colon cancer are characterized by chronic inflammation and can have more serious symptoms like fever and fatigue, blood in the stool, reduced appetite and unintended weight loss. These warning signs are very serious and should not be ignored.

Finding out whether you have a “sensitive gut” or a long-term health complication is not something you can discover on your own. Your doctor will be able to suggest the appropriate tests to determine your condition. Whether you have been diagnosed with IBS or you have recently experienced changes in your bathroom habits, it is important to
visit your doctor at regular intervals. Regular appointments and check-ups are the best way to determine whether you need further testing or a change in your treatment. If necessary, your doctor may suggest some blood work, CT scan, X-rays, endoscopy or a colonoscopy (Source: Everyday Health).